In every corner of Istanbul, it is possible to come across tasty ice cream made by experts. But there are some ice creams that are the source of happiness for people of all ages. Whichever district you visit from Yakacık to Kurtuluş, Bebek to Moda, you will always come across skilled ice cream makers that are frequented by local residents. We have compiled the venues of four ice cream masters, each with their distinctive tastes that will add a pleasant coolness to your tours around these districts during the summer months.

An array of colorful ice creams, an irresistible flavor on hot summer days… Vanilla, chocolate, fruit-flavored… There is certainly an ice cream to suit everyone’s taste buds! I looked around different parts of Istanbul to find the skilled makers of this sweet that takes us back to our childhood. There are many options to choose among ice cream sellers in Istanbul; in almost every district ranging from Yakacık to Kurtuluş, Bebek to Moda, ice cream masters offer this cool, summer sweet to the residents and visitors to their districts.

Ice Cream on the Balcony of Istanbul  

Yakacık is one of the favorite places for those who want to cool down in the summer months. Additionally, it is well worth discovering the shops in this district selling produce from the Yakacık villages, a rural environment in a hinterland area.

I begin my tour from the center of the district. Yakacık, in the boundaries of Kartal, is also known as the “Balcony of Istanbul.” So, visiting the Aydos Hill and taking a break in Ayazma is a must to enjoy the clean, fresh air here. Yakup Güvenç, owner of the Yakacık Tarihi Balkan Dondurmacısı (Historical Ice Cream Shop) was the man who gave me all this information. Kazım Güvenç, Yakup Bey’s father, opened the ice cream shop in the center of Yakacık in 1969. The family migrated from the Republic of North Macedonia to Turkey in 1966, bringing their own special ice cream recipes with them. Yakup Bey, who was only a child when they came to Yakacık, learned the ice cream trade from his father. Today, Yakup Bey still manages the shop with his nephew Yavuz Güvenç. Yakup Güvenç says that natural ingredients are the secret to his perfect ice cream. There are visitors that come from various parts of Istanbul to the ice cream shop that has served customers in Yakacık for 50 years. I must also say that the former residents of the district regularly pay visits both for a chat and for the ice cream. Naturally, children are the most loyal customers of the Tarihi Balkan Dondurmacısı. I ask for caramel, vanilla, and chocolate ice cream in a cone, and set out for a long walk towards Aydos in the shade of the pine trees to breathe in the district’s fresh air.

An Old Dream in Tatavla

Another ice cream shop identified with an Istanbul district is in Kurtuluş. My next stop is the Damla Dondurma (ice cream) shop run by the Tufan brothers. Kurtuluş, which was previously known as Tatavla, is still one of the city’s favorite places with its unchanged neighborhood structure in the middle of Istanbul’s central districts like Beyoğlu and Şişli. Whenever I come to this area, which is quite frequently, the first thing I do is walk through the old buildings and visit the Tufan brothers' ice cream shop further down the road. This flavor spot opened by Ali and Fahri Tufan in 1994, is one of the street’s most popular shops. Especially during the summer months… The two brothers make ice cream using their own recipes. They learned the skills of the trade from elder members of the family engaged in the same business. In 1989, they opened a shop in Merter, and moved to Kurtuluş five years later. In the summer months, they make a variety of aromatic ice creams in the shop that has operated for 25 years, using all kinds of fruit. In the winter months, apart from ice cream they also serve salep and boza. On hot days, it is not surprising to see a long queue outside the shop because when setting out to discover the city, Kurtuluş is certainly a place to visit. Just a small tip: it is peak season for cherries. Holding an ice cream in my hand, I leave Kurtuluş and head towards the Harbiye Cemil Topuzlu Open-Air Theater. After all, I am in a district that houses one of Istanbul’s most vibrant culture and art scenes. 

As Happy as a Child    

Bebek is one of the rare districts of Istanbul where visitors can swim. While I’m here, I cannot leave without visiting Bebek Mini Dondurma, one of Istanbul’s half-century-old ice cream shops. As I walk from Aşiyan to Bebek Park, I immediately notice the tiny shop with its mini counter -it certainly lives up to its name. This five-square meter adorable shop is run by Mesut Akyıldız. His father took the ice cream shop over in 1969. They have been serving this cool, delicious treat to the people of Istanbul for 50 years. Their new, different ice creams really blend in with the spirit of this busy district. For example, it is impossible to taste the rose Turkish delight-flavored ice cream by Akyıldız anywhere else. Just like the view of the Bosphorus from Bebek Park, it is unique. Watching the children waiting impatiently in front of the shop for the ice creams offering an array of colors, I go back to my childhood. Everyone leaving the shop holding ice creams has the same smile on their faces -as if ice cream means happiness! I immediately join the queue to try this cooling delicacy. My choice was the mint and the rose Turkish delight-flavored ice cream. I walk towards Bebek Park with my delicious ice cream, then tour around the Bebek Mosque. When the boat approaching the dock hails me, I board and cross over the cool waters of the Bosphorus to the Anatolian side eating a freezing cold ice cream.

Ali Usta, The Spirit of Moda 

Moda, on the Anatolian side of Istanbul, is one of the city’s most characteristic districts. I am on a nostalgic journey on the tram from Kadıköy to Moda. Getting off the tram at Moda, I began to notice people passing me holding ice creams. I walk a little further and reach the famous Dondurmacı Ali Usta, a favorite place to visit in Moda. Ali Usta, that is Ali Kumbasar, has been running this ice cream shop in Moda for 50 years. This is one of the oldest businesses in the district. Ali Usta continues to run the shop he opened in 1969 with his brothers and nephews. Kumbasar, who learnt the fine details of ice cream making from an Italian master in his early years, combined his knowledge and skills and eventually opened his own shop. Today, this adventure that initially began with four or five different kinds of ice cream, has reached a variety of more than 50 different flavors. As I spoke to Ali Usta eating walnut ice cream, I asked him the secret of his success. He replied, “My customers know the taste of our ice cream is always the same. They like this flavor that never changes.” 

Well, isn’t this one of the reasons why we love ice cream? Its taste never changes, nor does the pleasure it gives…

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